Entries Filed in 'Capitol news'
Lawmakers gave approved a bill that would help protect pregnant women and children from harmful chemicals in household products such as toys and food containers.
“This is about the health and safety of our children. Parents and consumers should be able to know what harmful chemicals are in household products,”said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, who is the sponsor of the bill. “We want to improve our lives, make our lives healthier, and we want to ensure that as our children grow up they have an opportunity to become stronger. This measure will give us all more transparency, so when we walk into stores, we know what we’re buying and so we can quickly understand what’s in those products.”
LD 1181, “An Act to Further Strengthen the Protection of Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals,” would require the biggest food and beverage companies – those with more than $1 billion in gross annual sales – to report their use of high priority chemicals such as BPA in metal food packaging like cans and lids.
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The Maine House of Representatives on June 18, 2013, reaffirmed its support of a key environmental measure that would protect water quality from metal mining pollution. The vote was 97-40.
LD 1302, introduced by Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan, strengthens protections in the state’s mining laws. The measure would ensure that any metallic mineral mining that occurs in the state will not pollute Maine waterways or stick Maine taxpayers with cleanup costs.
“We must protect our water quality for Maine people, our recreational opportunities and our sporting heritage — both now and for generations to come,” said McCabe. “If mining comes to Maine, it must be with the industry’s highest standards.”
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Maine Conservation Voters and the Maine People’s Alliance today called on the Maine Legislature to investigate unethical and improper behavior at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
A series of articles in the Portland Press Herald published over the past three days has revealed that under Commissioner Pattie Aho’s direction, the DEP has used staff intimidation, lack of enforcement and delayed implementation of environmental and public health initiatives to benefit multi-million dollar corporations including pharmaceutical, chemical, and energy companies. Aho and other members of the LePage administration have recently worked as lobbyists for these same corporations.
“The Legislature should use every method at its disposal and begin immediately to examine how the mission of the Department of Environmental Protection has been undermined to serve corporations at the expense of Maine people,” said Maine Conservation Voters Executive Director Maureen Drouin.
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Tags: Government transparency
With strong bipartisan support, the Maine Legislature today enacted a bill to create an industry-run collection and recycling program for leftover household paint.
“This bill will move Maine’s recycling efforts forward,” said Rep. Joan Welsh, who is the House Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “It was exciting to have the paint manufacturers come to us with this solution based on a model that is working in other states.”
If allowed to become law by Governor Paul LePage, the bill (LD 1308) would save money for towns and taxpayers through a product stewardship program that would provide convenient used paint collection sites at participating paint retail stores and transfer stations across Maine. The bill received a 28-7 vote in the Senate, and a 92-44 vote in the House. Governor LePage has 10 days to sign the bill, allow the bill to become law without his signature, or veto the bill.
“Creating this program to recycle leftover paint will be good for Maine people, municipalities, and our environment. It will build on Maine’s other successful product stewardship programs, which are helping keep toxic materials out of landfills and incinerators,” said Abby King, Toxics Policy Advocate for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “We are pleased to have worked closely with representatives of the paint industry and a bipartisan group of lawmakers to shape this legislation that will provide a solution for the unwanted used paint piling up in basements and closets across the state.”
The bill would save money for Maine towns by avoiding the high costs of processing used paint that currently is collected, sporadically across the state, through household hazardous waste events. Industry data on Maine paint sales suggest the program could result in the collection and environmentally-responsible recycling and reuse of more than 300,000 gallons of paint annually in Maine. Maine would be the seventh state to enact this program, following Oregon, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Vermont.
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Lawmakers in the State Senate voted 21-14 to provide direct funding for charter schools through the State’s General Purpose Education fund. Charter schools were approved by the Republican-controlled 125th Legislature and have negatively impacted public school funding by taking funds away from public schools.
“The funding of our charter schools is flawed. This measure addresses one of the biggest weaknesses by putting forth a fair funding model,” said Senate President Justin Alfond. “This bill helps strengthen all of our schools and I am proud of the bipartisan support this measure.”
- In this year alone, Skowhegan is losing $400,000 and is expected to lose another $650,000 next year to both Cornville and the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences.
- The communities of Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Topsham and Harpswell (MSAD 75) are expected to lose $300,000 next year to Harpswell Coastal Academy School. The public schools in MSAD 75 serve nearly 2,600 children, while the Harpswell charter school will serve 60 students at most.
“Funding for charter schools should not come at the expense of funding for public schools,” said Senator Rebecca Millett, the Senate Chair of the Education Committee. “Preventing charter schools from draining financial resources from public schools provides relief for local schools, and local property taxpayers. This measure provides more local control over how our property taxes are spent instead of blindly turning money over to charter schools.”
LD 1057, “An Act Related to Public Funding of Charter Schools,” was approved by the House earlier today in an 85-55 vote. It faces further votes in the House.
“Maine is at the forefront when it comes to small, local farms,” said Rep Adam Goode. “We should be doing all we can to make sure more people have the opportunity to buy food grown in Maine by our local farmers.”
But according to the 2010 Census, nearly one in seven Mainers is considered “food insecure,” meaning there is a limited or uncertain food supply. The bill would bring together several local and regional groups working on food policy throughout the state, as well as farmers and other interested parties. Today the State Senate unanimously passed a measure to establish a food policy council to develop a plan to increase access to locally grown and sustainable food for more Mainers across the state.
“Quite simply, we can do more to help hungry Mainers. We have the local resources to produce much more food in Maine, and feed many more Maine people. While we struggle with this food crisis, we have farmland ready for production and a labor force ready to work,” said Senate President Justin Alfond, the bill’s sponsor.
Alfond’s bill establishes the Maine Farm-to-Plate Commission, tasked with developing a strategic plan for agricultural economic development and identifying methods and the funding necessary to strengthen links among producers, processors, and markets.
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An investigative report by Colin Woodard of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram revealed that Gov. LePage’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection, Patricia Aho, stalled restrictions on toxic chemicals in everyday products to the benefit of out-of-state corporate interests – including the very same chemical industry she formerly served as a paid lobbyist.
“Shame on Governor LePage for representing the toxic chemical industry, rather than protecting the health of Maine families,” said Amanda Sears, associate director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “The Governor should drop his opposition to the Healthy Kids bill, and put Maine people before toxic politics,” she said, referring to LD 1181, An Act to Further Strengthen the Protection of Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals.
The seven-month investigative news report revealed that the LePage Administration:
* Blocked restrictions on toxic flame retardants made by Aho’s former lobbying clients;
* Failed to name a single priority chemical under the Kid Safe Products Act; and
* When it couldn’t overturn the law in 2011, switched to stalling tactics to thwart it.
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Maine is trying to lower energy costs and increase energy efficiency. Sadly, its Governor may veto legislation that would do this at the expense of Maine’s ratepayers and emerging renewable energy industry.
A bipartisan omnibus energy bill has made its way through the Maine state legislature. The compromised package, L.D. 1559, passed the House and Senate. However, Governor Paul LePage opposes the bill, and his energy director said a veto will occur if the bill reaches his desk in its current form.
Andrew Sturgeon, president of the Action Committee of 50 (a group of business and community leaders promoting economic development), wrote a special for the Bangor Daily News highlighting the ways the omnibus bill helps Mainers:
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Rep. Emily Cain at the state house in 2011, photo by Ramona du Houx
State Senator Emily Ann Cain of Orono today announced her intent to run for U.S. Congress in Maine’s Second Congressional District following news that Congressman Mike Michaud has started an exploratory committee for Governor.
In her announcement Cain said that securing the economic future of the Second Congressional District is her reason for entering the race. Cain’s said her priority is to create good-paying jobs across Maine.
“During my nine years in the Legislature I have fought to protect and create jobs, make college more affordable, increase accountability in government, and support Maine workers and their families. I will take those same priorities with me when I go to Washington,” said Cain. “I believe government exists to make sure everyone is treated fairly and has a chance to succeed.I t is the responsibility of our elected leaders to work together to create opportunity and make sure the playing field is level for hard-working Maine people.”
Cain has filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission and is taking deliberate steps to establish a formal campaign organization. An official campaign launch will be planned for later this year.
Other contenders for the Democratic nomination of the Congressional Second District seat might be Joe Baldacci, a lawyer, who was mayor of Bangor and now is a City Councilman, Matt Dunlap, who served as Secretary of State under Gov. John Baldacci (Joe’s brother) and is again serving as Secretary of State and Sen. Troy Jackson, who is a logger.
The two top Republicans who may run are former State Senate President Kevin Raye, and Former Rep. Josh Tardy.
Tardy and Cain served closely together in the House of Representatives sharing morning coffee to discuss the issues of the day, in a bipartisan spirit.
The Maine House and Senate have sent to Gov. Paul LePage for approval a $6.3 billion budget plan, and a measure to pay the state’s hospital debt.
Lawmakers sent a bill to renegotiating the state’s wholesale liquor contract to pay back about $184 million in Medicaid debt to hospitals. “As we make this final payment to make good on past debt to hospitals, we have also moved ahead with a bill that will reduce hospital debt and charity care in the future,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “We must address both sides of this coin. To do one without the other, leaves the job half done.”
Accepting federal dollars would help contain future health care costs by reducing hospital charity care and bad debt, which totaled $450 million last year,according to the Maine Hospital Association.
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